Marine Biologist Christian Heesch and Phylogenetic Trees

The study of phylogenetic trees is important to all of the marine biology work done by Christian Heesch. Having received his doctorate degree in marine biology in New York, Dr. Heesch is well equipped to explain this scientific version of a family tree.

  • Unlike a family tree where the diagrams demonstrate the relationships between individuals, a phylogenetic tree shows the evolutionary lines and intersections between species. A phylogenetic tree offers a wealth of information that is important to scientists and researchers.
  • When documented correctly, a phylogenetic tree offers information about how old a species is, how it has evolved, and what other species are closest from an evolutionary perspective. When scientists create phylogenetic trees, they do not rely on guess work, but instead use DNA testing to map each organism’s rightful place.
  • Each of the nodes or branches on a phylogenetic tree represents a different taxonomic unit and their common ancestor. When a phylogenetic tree is said to have roots, the scientist is referring to the broader picture of the tree.
  • Phylogenetic trees are most often created by Phylogenetists to understand the delicate and sometimes not easily readable relationships between organisms. In some cases, those organisms only cross paths long ago in history and that relationship is only viewed through genetic testing.
  • The phylogenetic tree first started as sketches and drawings from scientists and naturalists who wished to explain the “tree of life”. Some of the earliest noted people to create phylogenetic trees were Edward Hitchcock and Charles Darwin explains Christian Heesch.